New Illinois law may give some criminal offenders a second chance

When an individual is charged with a felony in Lake County, it means that he or she has been accused of committing a very serious crime. Those who are convicted of committing a felony crime often face time behind bars in addition to other legal and social consequences such as fines and difficulty finding jobs.

Although felony charges are not taken lightly in Illinois, some folks may be able to have their felony charges dismissed or expunged. Last month, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed an important law that gives counties the opportunity to create effective rehabilitation programs for first-time criminal offenders who have been accused of committing non-violent crimes. For some offenders, this second chance could certainly help them to avoid jail time, but it could also restore their futures.

On August 27, Gov. Pat Quinn approved the Offender Initiative Program. This program will only apply to those who have no previous criminal charges on their records. And only first-time offenders who are accused of committing non-violent crimes will be eligible to participate in special rehabilitation programs.

The new law was signed after analyzing the success of Cook County’s pilot program, which has been in use since February 2011. According to reports, more than 600 people participated in the one-year pilot program. More than 200 of the participants have had their felony charges dismissed for successfully completing rehabilitation programs. This has also significantly reduced court and incarceration costs for taxpayers.

Each county will be able to create rehabilitation programs similar to the one Cook County created for first-time, non-violent offenders. A judge and the state’s attorney must approve an offender’s eligibility for participating in a diversion program, though. The diversion programs will most likely require offenders to stay in school or keep jobs. Some programs may even require offenders to get their GED or enroll in a vocational training program.

Participants will also be expected to avoid committing any type of criminal offense after successfully completing a rehabilitation program.

Source: WREX 13, “Illinois law creates rehabilitation program for non-violent offenders,” Samantha Jeffreys, Sept. 12, 2012

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New Illinois law may give some criminal offenders a second chance